Josh, 44, is from Fort Smith, Arkansas, but moved to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, at the age of nine. He has called the Tulsa/Bartlesville area home ever since. Josh is a Welding Instructor at Tulsa Welding School. He usually teaches 120, which is the Advanced Pipe Welding phase of the Professional Welder program.
Thanks for your time, Josh. How long have you been teaching at Tulsa Welding School?
I’ve been here just about 18 months. I started in December 2020. I actually graduated from Tulsa Welding School in 2004, and I’ve been welding ever since.
Please give us the headlines from your 16+ years in the field before you became an instructor.
I’ve had a little bit of experience in everything. Right out of welding school, I went to Minnesota and was doing elevated water towers. I was working 200 feet in the air, which was interesting for a first job in welding. I’ve done a lot of refinery work, as far as shutdowns/turnarounds. The last 12/13 years before coming to Tulsa, I worked in a fab shop for JVIC. When work would slow down in the shop, I’d go out on field jobs for them for 3-4 weeks at time until the shop work picked back up, then I’d go back to the shop.
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So, you came to welding school in your mid-20s. What did you do before?
Before going to welding school, I worked in the construction industry. I was remodeling houses, really doing all facets involved with the construction of homes. Roofing, framing, sheet rock, concrete…anything a homeowner needs done to their home.
I tell people that I wish I would’ve gone to welding school right out of high school rather than at 25/26 because I would’ve been so much farther along in life. Because being that age allows you, as a single young man or woman, to travel and make that good road money and, if you’re smart, stash a bunch of cash. A good welder could feasibly hit it hard from 18 to 40, then retire.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I had all kinds of big plans! I wanted to be a lawyer, a doctor, a country music singer…I wanted to do a little bit of everything!
What made you decide to go into teaching in 2020?
Well, COVID hit, and I got laid off from my job with JVIC that I’d had for 12+ years. The work really kind of just dried up. It was kind of slow. So, I was off work for a while and the opportunity presented itself to be a welding instructor. I got thinking that I actually would enjoy passing my skills onto someone else like they were passed on to me. That was my main attraction to it, to just pass my skills along someone else.
18 months later, what do you enjoy most about being a teacher?
Seeing the students get excited about learning something new and realizing they have the potential to have a good paying job. I just enjoy watching the students develop—from knowing nothing about welding to being able to be employed as a welder a matter of months later.
Do you see yourself staying in education long-term?
I’m not positive yet. I actually just started college this month. I am getting my bachelor’s degree in Business Management. So, my goal is to move up within this organization to where I have more input on how we train our students. I can see welding education as the next phase of my welding career.
Tell us something most people won’t know about you.
I love to sing. I’m not the greatest at it, but when I get in my truck to go home from work, my truck is no longer a truck, it’s a recording studio! Singing is kind of like golf; you don’t have to be great at it to enjoy it!
If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
I would have to say, it’s going to sound corny, but my favorite actor is Sam Elliot. I would probably like to sit down and just listen to his voice for an hour!
Tell us a little about your family, Josh.
I have three boys. I have primary, full custody of them. My oldest is 17, and I have twin boys who are turning 12 in May.
What was your favorite tool when you were out in the field?
I still have it, and it’s my TIG torch. If that thing got lost, damaged, or broke, I’d probably just quit welding! I’ve had it for many years. I’m not the first welder to have it. It was given to me by a former QC [Quality Control] and it was given to him by a former welder friend. They don’t make this brand anymore, so you can’t easily go replace it. Maybe you could on eBay or something, but they don’t make them anymore.
What was your favorite part of being in the field?
I liked doing the refinery work, the shutdown/turnarounds, being out in the field. You get to see the country. You can work anywhere you want to. The main attraction for many to being a pipe welder is the ability to work anywhere you want. I quit running around doing the traveling bit after I got married and had my first kid. I still did a little bit, but not nearly as much. That’s pretty much when I went into the fab shop at JVIC.
If you got an unexpected afternoon off from school, what would you do with that time?
I’d probably jump on my Harley and go for a ride. I’ve been riding motorcycles for the past 15 years or so. It’s become an addiction. I’ve had four bikes, not all at once. But I’m on my fourth one now, and I really like it. So, in my spare time I’m riding or tinkering with it. I like going fishing also, I do quite a bit of fishing.
If you were to tell someone “Thank You” for helping you become you, who would it be and why?
That would be my grandfather, Harold Deck. He instilled hard work, no matter what you do. He was a PhD chemist. He went through eight years of college with pretty much $20 in his pocket to start with. So hard work and perseverance is what he taught me, no matter what line of work you go into.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you have for new students who are just starting out?
Persevere. Don’t give up. It was July my first week, when I was a student here. It was 110f+ degrees and I’m in there welding with sparks raining down on me thinking to myself, “What are you thinking?” I had a friend who was welder; he inspired me to go to welding school. So I gave him a call when I was doubting myself. He gave me a pep talk. He said, “It’s hard. It’s not the easiest thing to do, otherwise everybody would do it. So, do not give up. Persevere and you will get it.” So, my biggest piece of advice to students that are doubting themselves is to not give up. Find someone you can reach out to, whether it be an instructor, a friend, family member. Just find somebody that you can relay your feelings to and get a pep talk from them. Just don’t give up. You will get it.